Volume 32, 2015
Making and Un-Making Modern Japan
Ethno-politics in Contemporary Japan
The Mutual-Occlusion of Orientalism and Occidentalism
This essay offers a critical reading of Japan’s attempt to craft a modern identity. Eschewing the conventions of most scholarly writings, however, the essay builds on a personal history of political and intellectual engagement with key figures in post-war Japan to outline a counter-narrative about the ethno-politics of contemporary Japan.
In distinction to both Orientalist and Occidentalist versions of Japanese modernity, the essay draws attention to the invidious return of notions of ethnic supremacy in Abe Shinzo’s contemporary state project and the occlusion of a long-standing tradition in Japan of pluralistic co-existence among diverse communities. In drawing attention to the occlusions shaped by the entanglements of Japanese colonialism and state-building with American hegemony, this essay attempts to locate practices of exclusion within Japan (and vis-à-vis its Asian neighbors) in an account of what the essay contends is a civilizational project, best thought of as “Smart Occidentalism”, dominant in in contemporary Japan.